Why is My Toe Nail Turning Purple?

Dr. Ahmad Chaudhry M.B.B.S.
By Dr. Ahmad Chaudhry M.B.B.S.
Updated on November 15, 2023

Discoloration of the toenails is a common condition that affects many people. While it may not seem concerning, it’s important to understand what could be causing a change in nail color, especially when it turns purple. This article will explain the most common reasons for purple toenails and provide tips on when to see a doctor.

Why is my toe nail turning purple?

The most likely culprit causing a purple toenail is bruising underneath the nail. Trauma from stubbing your toe or nails being squeezed inside shoes are common causes of bruising. The purple/blue discoloration comes from blood collecting under the nail after an injury. This type of bruise-related discoloration is generally nothing to worry about and the color will fade as the injury heals.

Other potential causes

While bruising is usually harmless, there are a few other potential underlying causes you should be aware of:

Fungal infection (onychomycosis) – A fungal infection of the nail plate or skin around the nail can cause discoloration ranging from yellow to greenish-black. This is a common issue that may require antifungal treatment.

Psoriasis – People with psoriasis sometimes develop discolored, thickened nails that are often pitted or ridged in appearance. See a dermatologist for evaluation and treatment options.

Melanoma – Rarely, a dark purple or black discoloration can be a sign of melanoma, a serious type of skin cancer, developing under the nail. See a doctor immediately for evaluation if the discoloration is asymmetrical or changing rapidly.

When to see a doctor

For most cases of bruise-related toenail discoloration, no treatment is needed and the color should fade over time. However, be sure to see a doctor if:

– The discoloration is accompanied by pain, swelling, or tenderness in the nail or surrounding skin

– The color change affects multiple nails simultaneously rather than an isolated injury

– The color is darkening or spreading rather than resolving

– Other concerning symptoms are present like changes in the nail shape or thickness


In summary, a purple toenail is usually nothing to panic over and simply indicates minor trauma underneath. But certain discoloration patterns or associated symptoms could signify a fungal or other medical issue requiring treatment. Pay attention to nail changes and see a doctor promptly if you have concerns to rule out any serious condition.

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